I don't want to say "best." Best is for the Oscars and people with perfect objectivity...and the Oscars. The Artist? Really?
These are my favorites, things you should play, watch, and consume NOW...
I almost broke my rule by saying 2011 was one of the "best" years in gaming. Well, it's true. Last year not only saw a plethora of premiere titles for your AAA gaming rig, but a rejuvenation of independent games thanks to new devices and marketplaces.
Sword & Sworcery EP is as quirky as its title, constantly breaking the glass wall of your iPad with distinctly un-game-y dialogue, even going as far as to have you tweet your exploits to the world. But more than that, this game is on old-skool point and click (point and poke?) adventure that feels like playing the genre again for the first time. From its art to its music, it's wholey new and yet deftly strums the heart strings of every gamer who has ever "used ship-rib on crack in wall." It's hard to think of a more complete package, and there is no game that shines better on your iPad or iPhone.
Portal 2 had me the moment a potato sack of games landed in my steam account. Not satisfied with being phenomenal story tellers and brilliant puzzle-crafters, Valve gathered a group of independent games and in collaboration with their developers, wrote Portal 2 levels into those games. So here I was, playing The Ball when suddenly I burst through a wall and was in the sanitized interior of an Aperture Science lab, GladOs welcoming me to her clutches. Giddy, stupefied, ... I can't describe how incredible that was. This ARG (while it only earned us 8 hours off the release time) was a brilliant prelude to a phenomenal game, and an experience I wouldn't trade. Good thing Portal 2 was every bit the hilarious, mind-bending, co-op-bot-crushing game we hoped it would be.
Bastion. Some times a game feels like its every control and scheme was hand-crafted to your fingers and hardwired to your brain. What I thought, the Kid did, and we traveled this lush, haunting, beauty of world in perfect harmony. There a lot of games with great stories and vivid landscapes, but the way this game "played" has stuck with me. This was a triumph of design, each weapon, each upgrade, each perk feeling distinct from the last and changing the way you approached a situation. There was nothing thrown away or misused, in Bastion, it just...all fit. "The narrator wasn't bad, too. Heh...not bad at all."
- Dead Space 2 - SOOOOOO GOOOOOD. SOOOOO SCARYYYYYYY. Probably 5 bucks on Steam.
- Deus Ex: Human Revolution - so many bodies in so many vents :)
- Skyrim - 200+ hours and going
- Scribblenauts for Ipad - this is the future; Nintendo is dead
- SuperMegaWorm - It's kind of fun to say... SuperMegaWorm
- Batman Arkham City - I'm just waiting for Arkham County next
- Uncharted 3 - It's a movie. It's a game. It's the future of entertainment.
- Humble Indie Bundles - Any publishers or marketplaces not jumping on this are fools. Fools, I say!
2011 was not a good year for movies. If you watched the Oscars and recognized none of the movies nominated, you'd agree. Maybe because 2010 was such a powerhouse, with brilliant and deserving films like Black Swan, The Social Network, The King's Speech, and 127 Hours, the powers-that-be decided to cool it on the awesome in 2011. That said, there were some gems in the pile of pebbles.
Super 8. Was it a 2 hour long reference piece to every Amblin film every made? Yes. Was it a crude fusion of science fiction and The Sandlot? Yes. Was it a carefully constructed, Abrams delivered, twenty megaton nostalgia bomb? Yeppers. Those are the reasons I loved this film.
Rango, an existential journey of an intentionally symbolic thespian chameleon (double symbolism!!) on a journey to discover his identity on the metaphysical planes of the desert of life. Woah. What? Rango was a movie I decided to see late one Sunday night, and I had zero expectations of what to expect other than a cleverly animated, hopefully fun romp of a kids film. What I got was a film with better action sequences than Cowboys vs Aliens and deeper meaning than Tree of Life. And it was purty, to boot! That's called making a film and not a baby-sitting device.
Take Shelter still scares me when I think about it. There was something about the confluence of losing your mind and the world coming to an end that just got under my skin and refused to be extracted. When I left the quaint little Havard Exit theatre in Seattle, I was pensive, alert, and thoroughly unnerved. The plodding pace and purposeful reticence of the movie's main character will probably drive away people with short attention spans, but if you can find a quiet time to give this movie a chance, it will be scariest non-scary movie you watch. Jibblies jibblies jibblies...
- Trollhunters - Watch this with friends; another fun found footage film.
- Submarine - My favorite film from last year's SIFF. A director to watch.
- Tree of Life - Mesmerizing. Just. Mesmerizing.
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - Beat my expectations; not as good as the TV show
- 50/50 - you will cry and you will laugh and you will cry.
- Thor & Captain America - can't wait to see the Avengers if this is what's in store.
- Martha Marcy Mae Marlene - creepy as heck, but a solid flick
- Midnight in Paris - Basically the secret fantasy of every 20-something in Seattle, including me.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - I'd watch the sequel.
Last year I fell in love with a fantasy world. Star Wars was my first, Potter was pretty, Rings was a tease, and Trek always has my number, but last year I only had eyes for A Song of Ice and Fire.
We met, as with all great relationships, through friends.
"Give it a try!" they said.
"I'm not really a 'medieval fantasy' sort of guy" I replied. I mean, it didn't really have any magic, or wizards, or spaceships, did it? I'm not one of those weirdos who goes to renaissance fairs. I'm a self respecting geek. Then I made the mistake of watching the first 10 minutes, posted online by HBO. I was smitten.
With beer and songs we watched the series, and then I moved onto the books. I've spent the last year savoring each page, willing the story to stetch out so it will never end - usually to willing oblige of Mr. Martin's prose.
I carved a pumpkin with a direwolf. I quoted "winter is coming" in drunken tweets. I even bought a replica 'Hand of the King' pin, which I wear when no one is looking. My love runs deep.
2011 was a memorable year, a year of great games, good movies, and may favorites; but I'm deciding to label something above it all. In 2011, Game of Thrones was my favorite thing.